Monday, August 31, 2015

What I Bought 8/19/2015 - Part 3

I'm getting pretty close to finish up a couple of series I've been picking up in back issues, and so I was scouting for other possibilities. I was going to try the stretch of Mike Carey's X-Men Legacy where he made Rogue the main character, but geez. Every five seconds it's another tie-in. Necrosha, or Avengers vs. X-Men, or Schism, or some other crap. Really off-putting. Oh well, plenty of other options out there.

Ms. Marvel #17, by G. Willow Wilson (writer), Adrian Alphona (artist), Ian Herring (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - Carol could at least try to look like she's enjoying the team-up a little bit.

Carol doesn't do a terribly good job convincing Kamala the world isn't ending, but does agree to help find Aamir. While searching for him, they came across the same idiots that got run off from the school by Loki's spells, and Kamala urges them to 'You have skills! Go use them for good instead of stupid!' The body language Alphona gives her there is great, with the one hand on hip, but the other hand with the thumb jerked in the direction of the school. It's a very good example of being fed up, but in a way that works for Kamala. She's not going to be snarling through gritted teeth, she's just exasperated. She can't believe these guys decided this was the right thing to be doing.

She and Carol make their way to the docks, find some kittens that someone did their best to provide for, fight off Kaboom (the Inhuman girl with the electricity powers), and find Aamir, floating and glowing in the Terrigen Mists.

While I appreciated Carol's attempt to assure Kamala that everyone feels like they're screwing up all the time, she should have used a different example than Iron Man. If Stark actually spent any time wondering if he was screwing everything up, he might not have done half the stupid shit he's done in the past decade. That aside, I did enjoy the interplay between them. Kamala has a tendency to babble, and Carol's believable as the calm veteran for her to bounce off. Also, it's neat how Carol largely lets Kamala lead. She agrees to help, even though she has other stuff to be doing. When Kamala decides to stop and deal with the out-of-control electricians, Carol helps, but lets Kamala do the talking. And she lets Kamala work through where Aamir is hidden. It's a mentoring approach, giving support when needed, getting Kamala back on course when the enormity of things starts to get to her, being willing to poke fun at her even. I forget sometimes Carol has experience in the mentor role from working with Arana among other things.

I like how easily Kamala uses her powers now. It's something she does naturally, and Alphona conveys that well. When she makes her legs longer so she can check out rooftops, but the rest of her remains normal size. Or how she makes one foot larger when she's standing on the crazy electrician. It's very casual, very controlled use of powers. Overall, it's pretty much been what I was hoping for, though we'll see how it concludes when the next issue comes out in two months.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #8, by Ryan North (writer), Erica Henderson (artist), Rico Renzi (color artist), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - Maybe it's the angle, but Thor's head looks much too large.

The Thors and Nancy are in Asgard, trying to figure out how Ratatoskr got free, and how to get him back in. The answer to the first, as it so often is when it comes to things going wrong in Asgard, is "Loki", but at least he cops to it, and is quite taken with Nancy's forthrightness and love of Cat Thor. I'm not so taken with Cat Thor, but that's because Nancy made frost giants dogs. DOGS ARE NOT BAD GUYS! This may seem odd given the numbers of complaints I've made about my father's dogs (especially Charlie) over the years, but they aren't bad, just rambunctious (and some of them are stupid). Completely different. I give the fanfic a 2-star review, and one star is only because of Odin's "Aye, thee proclaims that every time," in response to Thor's "I gave them. . . Claws for concern?"

Back on Earth, the heroes are having some trouble with Ratatoskr, since it keeps turning Doreen's allies against her. Even the aid of Spider-Man's (stolen) web-shooters can't overcome the odds, but she's able to hold her own until the Asgardians arrive. With ear plugs. Squirrel Girl's big friendship speech mostly doesn't work, because saying not to be insecure and jealous is one thing, actually doing it is something else, but it helps just enough. Probably all the yelling was just really distracting, but the evil squirrel is defeated and imprisoned. Loki even provides a final twist of the knife with a note and a gift for it. I have to admit I enjoy this version of Loki. He's a good guy, but he's still a mischievous dick. So he keeps the Cat Thor head look just to annoy his brother a bit, but doesn't let it distract him from helping.

I have to say, even as much as I like Spider-Man, given the opportunity, I'd have stolen Captain America's shield instead. How could you pass up the chance to hurl that thing at least once? Plus, she could have altered the lyrics to that song to fit with her. "When Squirrel Girl lobs a shield that's been swiped, all the bad guys will, um have plenty of gripes." Something like that.

Henderson's work has a rushed look to it. The lines aren't as strong, faces are less detailed than they have been. There are certain panels where I think Renzi's colors are serving as the lines. It seems to happen a lot with Ratotskr, which makes sense given it's almost all black so lines would struggle to show up, but also Tippy-Toe, which looks more unfinished. Some panels are stronger than others, although given how much talking Loki does, she doesn't have much room to operate at times. But up to this point Henderson's drawn 8 issues, and they've all been on time (and I don't know if she's doing other books or commissions on the side), so maybe this is the limit to what she can manage without a skip month? If so, she's still well ahead of 95% of the artists working for Marvel and DC these days.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Most Divisive Issue Of Our Times

I've never cared for the designated hitter. I hate these big fat guys can be completely, hopelessly incompetent at fielding any position, and it doesn't matter. They can just sit on their butts except for the 3-4 times a game they get to bat. They're ballplayers, being able to play a position marginally well ought to be part of the job.

I understand that some people don't like watching pitchers hit, because they are mostly awful at it. But I appreciate at least the pitchers are trying to hit (though you couldn't tell by watching some of them), and it makes it all the more fun when one of them actually succeeds. Heck, even watching them fail horribly can be entertaining, in a "Greatest Sports Bloopers" way. It amused me how Randy Johnson was such a dominating pitcher, but looked awkward as hell batting, although my biggest laugh was that time Mike Mussina tripped rounding 3rd base.

I'm not going to argue one is inherently better than the other. That never gets anywhere. I saw a poll on Joe Posnanski's site where people who prefer the NL hate the DH, and people who prefer the AL think it's good. That seems about right. I don't see anyone being swayed by my feelings, and if the DH hasn't won me over by now, it's not going to. I know it's odd to have different sets of rules for the leagues, but just call it one of those quirks of baseball.

There's that whole scenario where the pitcher is coming up with men in scoring position, and there's a decision: Let him bat so he can stay in the game? Or take him out and roll the dice that a) the pinch-hitter comes through, and b) the bullpen does its job? And it isn't always the same answer. I've seen a manager pinch-hit for his pitcher in the second inning, because he was sure it was going to be a high-scoring game, so best to seize the opportunity. Other times they leave the guy in in the 8th, because he's cruising, or because the bullpen got worn out the night before. It doesn't happen every game, but that helps. It's an occasional little bit of drama or suspense. With a DH, the pitcher already has someone hitting for him, so it's a moot point.

Beyond that, I think it forces the manager to weigh the strengths and weaknesses of the players a little more. The Cardinals have been playing Brandon Moss in left field recently. They've mostly been winning this year by not allowing runs, but this is not their best available defensive outfield - that's probably Tommie Pham/Peter Bourjos/Jason Heyward at the moment. But Moss is likely the best power hitter of the bunch (in theory). It's a case of sacrificing some of that outfield defense to get his bat in there and try to bolster what's been an erratic offense. With a DH, Moss could just hit, and they could have that all-defense outfield (though given Matheny's apparent distaste for Bourjos, it's more likely he'd go Piscotty/Pham/Heyward, but whatever). It's more efficient, but it seems less fun*.  Eat your cake and have it, too.

I look at it like a mosaic, where you can create multiple different pictures, depending on how you arrange the pieces. Most players are going to have holes in their game - they can't all be Mike Trout - so why not try and find entertainment in the imperfections? It's neat when a player excels in some area they normally don't. The slick-fielding banjo hitter puts one in the bleachers (narrowly). The lumbering slugger saves a run with a circus catch in the outfield (that anyone else on the team would have made easily, but still).

And watching teams go in vastly different directions when constructing teams, but still winning*. The team with marginal starting pitching but a lights out rotation. The team of guys who make a lot of contact, but have limited power, or the lineups of guys that strike out a ton, but can hit the ball a mile (and may or may not walk much). Teams with their best hitters in the positions in the middle of the field, but their best fielders in the corners. Some of these work better than others, but watching the different approaches is interesting. Obviously American League teams still have to weigh these things when building a roster, but they do have that option to stash at least one good bat/crap glove guy in the spot where he never has to field. It simplifies things a little.

There have been rumbles for years that the NL will implement the DH sooner or later, and that's probably true. Especially if offense continues to sag, or more accurately, if revenues sag because people want more offense than they're getting. I already lived through one high offense era in the late '90s/early 2000s, so I'm in no particular hurry for an encore. Maybe they'll be willing to hold off on bringing the DH to the NL until after I'm dead.

* This is something I like in the NBA, too, how you see teams build around very different approaches, based on the strengths of their best players, and how the roster fits together. Superhero teams, too, for that matter. The ones that aren't overwhelmingly powerful, but win by leveraging the abilities of the team.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

"You Will Be Temporarily Suspected Of Murder" Is Not The Worst Fortune Ever, But It's Close

I figure this is as good a place as any to mention there will be no Zorro post tomorrow. I've ended up staying at my dad's longer than initially planned, and I didn't watch far enough ahead beforehand. Sorry.

I wonder what attracts my dad to movies like Cookie's Fortune sometimes. It's not a bad movie - it's one of those films set in a small town where every character is a little strange in some way, I don't know what you'd call that, a farce? - it just isn't quite what I'd expect him to be into. Trigger warning for suicide, I guess.

Patricia Neal plays an elderly woman (the Cookie in question), living in her big family house, alone save for her caretaker Willis (Charles S. Dutton). She's estranged from her two sisters Camille and Cora (Glen Close and Julianne Moore), but she likes her niece Emma (Liv Tyler, though I spent most of the movie thinking it was Anne Hathaway, because I associate the short haircut Tyler had with Hathaway now, I guess). While Willis is out running errands to get ready for Easter, Cookie, missing her husband and possibly suffering from senile dementia*, chooses to take her own life. Camille comes by to borrow a salad bowl, finds her, and fearing this will reflect poorly on her, tries to make it look like a burglary gone wrong.

I expected the movie to get grim at that stage, as Willis gets brought in, since it's his fingerprints that are all over the place, and there aren't any other prints. I figured we were in for a depressing trial, Willis being scared and unable to clear his name. Yes, the fact he was a black man suspected of killing an elderly white lady in what appeared to be a Southern town had something to do with my expectations. As it turns out, most of the cops are confident he's innocent, and the whole thing is sorted by the next day, sort of. It's all kind of a joke. The D.A. is running around trying to check Willis' alibi, which isn't going well. Liv Tyler and Chris O'Donnell (playing a meathead deputy) can't keep their hands off each other. Willis has to stay in his cell, but the door is open, and other people visit and bring him gifts at will. Camille blithely ignores the fact Cookie's house is a crime scene, tears down the police tape, and moves in within hours. There's a whole subplot about Camille directing a local production of Oscar Wilde's version of Salome, which is probably a metaphor for certain aspects of the film, but hell if it meant anything to me.

Camille's ability to ignore reality is fairly impressive. At one point, she asks God to forgive Willis if he did commit this act, even though a) the only other person around is in on it with her, b) they both know there was no murder, and c) she's praying to an allegedly omnipotent being. God is going to know Willis didn't kill anyone, lady. She reminds me of a relative of mine, and I don't mean that as a compliment.

My dad and I debated Moore's character afterward. I had asked early on if Cora had some kind of brain damage, but I think we're meant to read it as an act. My problem is, she would have to maintain the facade of being largely vacant and someone Camille can lead by the nose for years. No one in the film sees her behavior as odd. Not Camille, not the cops, not the other townspeople. One of the things that made Emma distant from Cora and Camille is that her mother has always seemed a puppet of Camille's, which means this has been going on at least 15-20 years. I just don't see her keeping an act up that long, waiting for the chance to hoist Camille on her own petard.

* We see one exchange between her and Willis, where they seem to be having two different conversations, like she isn't hearing anything he's saying, and he can't understand what she's talking about, shortly before she dies, but I'm not sure how much that plays into the act. She writes a letter that seems fairly clear in outlining her reasons.

Friday, August 28, 2015

What I Bought 8/19/2015 - Part 2

Comics Alliance had a poll up to see what were people's favorites out of Marvel's many, many events over the last decade. I naturally voted (repeatedly) for Annihilation, which is at least running second. Of course, it's second to Civil War, and the next is House of M. No accounting for taste, I guess. At least World War Hulk pulled ahead of Infinity.

Harley Quinn and Power Girl #3, by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti (writers), Stephane Roux (artist, pgs. 1-7, 12-19), Moritat (artist, 8-11), Elliot Fernandez (artist, 20-22), Paul Mounts (colorist), John J. Hill (letterer) - I keep thinking that cover reminds me of a different one, but I can't recall which. I'm probably just thinking of all those covers with one hero unconscious and held by their cape, while another rushes to the rescue. That's not an uncommon type.

Our heroines reach their destination, and are immediately attacked by another space armada. They fend that off, then spend 4 pages on a drug trip thanks to Groovicus Mellow. About the time they come down from that, Vartox shows up, and Power Girl has to start fighting him. I'm starting to think this would have been better served as a 4-issue mini-series. I know the creative team is mostly just screwing around with this whole thing, there isn't any particular point to it, but it was a little too obvious here. Or maybe it doesn't work because all the Hunter S. Thompson stuff is lost on me. The closest I've ever gotten to his work is either those articles he wrote on ESPN's Page 2 in the early 2000s, or the X-Play episode where Sessler dresses up as him while he and Morgan Webb seek the fabled burial ground of Atari E.T. games. I'm still not sure if the bald guy with glasses who showed up as the ladies shook off the effects was supposed to be Thompson or Grant Morrison. I'm thinking Morrison, given the nice suit and lack of a hat, but hell if I know.

I may not have cared about the "montage homage", but Moritat and Paul Mounts did a good job drawing it. Moritat's draws Harley and Peej with a simplified looseness, it somehow suggests their faces could radically alter shape any moment, but they're still easily recognizable. Mellow's face doesn't do this as much, but you could at least argue that he has a higher tolerance from repeated exposure to starflower pollen. Mounts gives everything this sort of oversaturated feel, where there are these purples and greens that are all over the characters, even in the shadows. It works for them being in this haze, the grip of the drug, and so it colors everything. There's definite skill at work, I just didn't engage with it in terms of being sucked in.

Starfire #3, by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti (writers), Emanuela Lupacchino (pencils), Ray McCarthy (inks), Hi-Fi (colors), Tom Napolitano (letters) - Nothing worse than being pursued by a giant, slobbering creature, who has your name written on its face. Everyone will just assume you bullied it, and so you deserve to get eaten.

The hurricane has passed, and the island tries to pick up pieces, and Kori starts moving into her new place, Stella and her brother's guest house. This is interrupted by a cruise liner crashing into the harbor. We had seen it pick up some poor shipwrecked guy, who is actually some sort of serial killer with mind powers. By the time Stella and Kori get on the ship, he's nowhere to be seen, and only one member of the crew is left. Since the ship is a crime scene now, Stella asks Kori to wait at a bar nearby, where every guy is interested in her, and she gets some advice from a helpful waitress. Then a monster that kind of looks like he's made of magma shows up, Kori assumes it's after her, but it's actually after the waitress, who is Power Girl's old friend Atlee (I don't know if she uses Terra as a codename).

I understand Conner and Palmiotti are playing up Starfire's lack of familiarity with Earth, but sometimes I think they take it too far. She spent time around other species while she was a prisoner. She lead them in a revolt/escape. She's had other adventures along the way. It seems strange to me she hasn't previously encountered things like sarcasm, greed, or police forces, or whatever. I'm not certain she needs to be this much a fish out of water, to the point she seemingly needs everything explained to her by everyone. Which is too bad, because the idea of Atlee getting to be the voice of experience is a nice potential switch for her, but I feel like it leaves Kori once again in the position of needing to be led by someone else. Maybe it won't turn out that way. Kori clearly knows things, she said she could build one of those weather controlling machines, so she isn't an idiot. Hopefully she'll get a chance to show off some of her knowledge and experience. I do like the fact Stella, even though she sends Kori away, asks her to stay nearby, just in case.

I did wonder how Kori was in her skirt and blouse when she met saw Stella running, but was in her costume by the time she flew Stella to the dock. She couldn't have been wearing it underneath, and it wouldn't have saved time to go back and change, then fly. On the other hand, Lupacchino did remember to draw six toes on the polydactyl cat, and the expressions on the faces of all Kori's possible suitors at the bar were well done. There are times Lupacchino's work seems kind of flat, the expressions are blank, or I can't shake the feeling a face is partially photo-referenced. When he loosens up, gets a little more exaggerated, I think it's an improvement, fits better with the tone. I mean, a bunch of guys and gals all buying drinks for Kori and being interested in her could be played as creepy, but it isn't playing it that way. It's a gag, everyone is attracted to her to the point she gets a ludicrous number of drinks. Everyone has little hearts above their heads, that one guy is sitting backwards in his chair with the classic "totally smitten" pose of resting his head on both hands (which are positioned on either side of his face), with a big smile. Even the cat is waving shyly. And that's a fairly normal tone for this book. Loosening up some might fit better, or at least carry the jokes farther.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Furious Jimmy Stewart's Oddly Compelling

I hadn't seen Winchester '73 before, though I thought I had. I must be confusing it with The Man From Laramie, or else Gary Cooper's Springfield Rifle, since those both involve trying to track down a load of weapons.

In this case  there's only one of the title weapons, and it's ancillary to Jimmy Stewart's dogged pursuit of Dutch Henry Brown. They have some history, and Stewart's been after him for some time, determined to kill him. He finally catches up to him in Dodge City, but with Wyatt Earp around making everyone turn in their guns upon entering town, there's not going to be any settling the scores. So the two end up in a shooting competition for one of the extremely rifles, and Stewart wins. So Dutch promptly jumps him in his hotel room and steals the rifle, then flees with his associates, Stewart again in pursuit.

What I didn't expect is the film to take the winding path it does. The rifle cycles through several other owners over the course of the film, from an trader, to an aggressive chief (played by Rock Hudson), to a man promising to make a new life with his lady love (the lady is played by Shelly Winters), to a different, slightly crazy, criminal, before ending up between Stewart and Dutch again.

I think Stewart is supposed to she the value in a life outside vengeance, which is why he needs to run into other people along the way. He has a friend with him throughout, but seeing as that guy's devoted his life to following Stewart around, he's not a shining example of life outside vengeance. Winters' character, Lola Manners, was getting run out of Dodge the first time we (and Stewart) meet her, I guess for being a dance hall girl, which made her undesirable to certain elements in town. She was hoping to start a happy life with her beau on a farm, but that didn't work out.

I'm not sure why the rifle needed to cycle through so many hands. The plot could continue pretty much as is if Dutch weren't such an impatient dope he couldn't wait 5 minutes to steal that rifle. I guess the argument could be made Hudson's character wouldn't have attacked a cavalry troop without his nice rifle, but he seemed pretty excited at the prospect of replicating the recent victory by Sitting Bull over Custer, so he might have gone for it regardless. It's a new piece of killing equipment that seemingly everyone wants, but it's only relevant to Stewart and Dutch's characters. They were both taught to shoot by the same person, and so the rifle can be seen as the reward for the one who absorbed all the lessons best. Not just how to shoot, but why, and at what.

Seeing Stewart in these darker roles is always a little odd. I tend to picture him more as slightly absent-minded, frequently befuddled stringbean, but he's pretty good at these roles. He's able to get this tension, where he's almost vibrating, and he's good at sort of spitting his words through clenched teeth. And he can snap into it quickly. When he meets someone with a line on Dutch, he goes from politely asking to suddenly smashing the guy's face against the bar and demanding answers before hurling the guy into the street.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

31 Days of Scans - Day 25

Today's for one's favorite adaptation into another media, which is a category with lots of choices. I loved both the recent Captain America movies. There's the Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes cartoon. Batman: The Animated Series, Teen Titans, Justice League Unlimited. Heck, there's even a few video games I'd consider. Batman Returns was my #4 Game Gear game, I really liked the Spider-Man game on the N64, and there's Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3.

Tempting as all those are, I'm going with The Rocketeer. This may be a bit of a cheat. I saw the film in theaters when it first came out, but didn't read any of the comics until around 2009. I didn't even know it was based on a comic book until I found comic blogs. Still, it was an adaptation, whether I knew it back then or not, so as Blog Boss and Arbiter, I'll allow it.

Why do I love this movie? I know as a kid, the idea of finding a rocket pack. Cliff is already a pilot, he gets to fly fast and do dangerous stunts for a living, and then he finds something even better. He can fly faster, without a plane, than anyone else can fly with one. He gets drawn into a plot involving mobsters, Nazis, Howard Hughes, a fascist Errol Flynn, and a goon that got lost on his way to Warren Beatty's Dick Tracy movie.

It isn't a completely faithful adaptation. They use Hughes instead of Doc Savage, and Lothar isn't a circus strongman hell bent on revenge on Cliff. Bill Campbell plays Cliff as somewhat more affably clueless, rather than the extremely jealous hothead he is in the comics. Jennifer Connelly's Jenny likewise isn't nearly as fiery as Betty. But Campbell still gives Cliff that air of insecurity that drives him to take risks to prove he's worthy of Jenny, and Connelly has Betty's stubborn streak and wits, which help her see through Neville Sinclair's attempts to turn on the charm.

And, of course, Timothy Dalton going over the top as Sinclair. He seems like he's having the time of his life with his delivery. How he gets offended when Cliff suggests Sinclair doesn't do his own stunts. His response when Jenny learns that truth. 'Spy? Saboteur? Fascist. All of the above.' He gets more dramatic with each word he utters. He's really good at the melodramatic villain*.

The special effects don't look so great now, but for the era, they're solid. Sometimes Cliff zipping around with the rocket looks bad, but sometimes it looks very good, and that's what I tend to remember more. There's just enough humor, from Cliff and Peevy arguing (and their first test run of the rocket), and regularly interspersed gunfights, fistfights, and car chases. Lothar seems like an odd fit in the movie, but he works somehow. Maybe because Sinclair is such a sneaky, yet dramatic villain, the film benefits from a more direct, but understated henchman. Or maybe having a relentless, seemingly unstoppable, enemy is just a good thing to have in a film.

The Rocketeer is one of those films I can watch pretty much anytime (a list that also includes Hot Fuzz and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly), which makes it a worthy selection.

* If they're going to do another Fantastic Four film in the future, get someone like that for Dr. Doom (if they insist on using Doom again)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

When Hell Froze Over - E.M. Halliday

Halliday explains in the foreword that he published this book once before, 40 years earlier, as The Ignorant Armies. Then, as now, the book details the time in 1918 that Britain, France, and the United States sent troops into Northern Russia. Just why they did that, is a little muddled. Ostensibly, there was a desire to reopen the Eastern Front, so as to divert German troops who had been freed up when the czar was overthrown and the Treaty of Brest-Litvok signed. Of course, that was going to require getting the Russians to get back into the war, and Lenin and Trotsky weren't about to do that. They were too busy just trying to get a firm grip on the country. Of course, France and Britain wouldn't have shed any tears if this mission destabilized that government, because autocratic governments aren't fine, just so long as the rulers as inbred, I mean anachronistic, I mean aristocratic. Sorry.

So about 5,000 U.S. troops wound up spending roughly 9 months freezing their butts off alongside the French, British, and some Russian troops, fighting against the Red Army. It didn't start out too badly, but the size of the force was wholly insufficient for any of the ideas the leaders had (there was an idea about linking up with a force of 40 thousand or so Czechoslovakian troops held up between Bolsheviks on the Trans-Siberian Railroad, but it was going to require covering something like 600 miles), and the Red Army grew steadily better trained, under the leadership of Trotsky himself. There simply aren't enough troops, because each position they grab (to secure ones already held) required grabbing more territory to support them. Except Russia is a big country, and there's a limit to how much can be taken and held by a force of the size present.

More critically, the plan to build an army of Russians to help - and eventually take over for - the Allies failed utterly. In large part, I think this was because they failed to demonstrate how the government that would arise if the Bolsheviks fell (considering World War I ended while this was going on, they couldn't continue to argue this was about opening a second front) was actually going to be better for the peasants in the countryside, or the workers in Archangel. Most of the Provisional Governments that tried to get going in the city were completely ineffectual, lead by people with no conception of how to actually run things, or by those who had been loyal to the czar, and the Russian people wanted nothing to do with that. The whole thing was doomed from the start, another of those campaigns started by politicos without any clear idea of how to accomplish what they want, or the backbone to see it through.

I wound up feeling a little sorry for Woodrow Wilson. He kind of comes off as an idealistic fool, which is not the best thing to be, but not the worst. He didn't like the Bolsheviks, but he also wasn't comfortable interfering in another country's right to determine their own government. He tried to justify it by claiming the troops were only there to protect stores of ammunition and weapons that had been shipped to Russia earlier in the war, which the Germans were getting uncomfortably close to. In other words, the soldiers were there for defensive purposes only. Yet he allowed the British to supply the supreme commander, even though they clearly had more aggressive designs. Which is how you get GIs out in the frozen expanses, trying to take villages from the Red Army. Though Halliday noted that the American troops and the Russians mostly got along very well. Too bad none of those people on either side were involved in their countries' foreign policy.

Halliday takes the time to add some interesting information to the story. He spends a couple of pages describing the design of houses the Russians used in the small villages, which was relevant considering a lot of troops ended up in those houses as well. He discusses the struggle to teach the Allied soldiers how to use skis, as well as snowshoes, and the problems with the Shackleton boots provided (not designed for slick, packed down ice apparently). He praises the Canadian artillery, which is frequently outmatched in the size of their guns by the Russians, and overworked (they seem to be everywhere), but bails out the infantry on multiple occasions. There's even a section at the end about work done to retrieve the bodies of American soldiers buried there. The book probably could have used more focus on the view from the other side of things, but I'd imagine it's not always easy to get records from Soviet archives. Although Halliday refers more than once to a speech made by Khruschev that made clear the Soviets had not forgotten that early attempt to, as Churchill put it, strangle them in their crib.

'When the total pattern of Soviet warfare in 1919 is examined, it thus appears that Trotsky's strategy was to strike at the Allies in North Russia precisely whenever Kolchak was pressing him hard enough to make the plan of junction between the two anti-Soviet forces look feasible. Despite tremendous losses, the Red army opposing Ironside had such a commanding numerical superiority by the end of 1918 that from then on it was able to push the Allies back almost at will and keep the gap between them and Kolchak approximately constant.'

Monday, August 24, 2015

What I Bought 8/19/2015 - Part 1

It's surprised me that Rock Bottom Comics has been pretty much the only comic book store in Columbia for the last 10 years or so. It's a good store, well-lit, good selection of back issues and trades, staff is always friendly. Just surprising a town that size can't support more than one (Slackers sells comics, but until recently, it was a pretty ancillary part of their stock). But I had the chance to visit a new store that opened this spring, Distant Planet Comics, which is also seemed like a nice store. They're still building up back issue stock, but they had almost everything I was looking for in new issues, and it's a very nice store. So hopefully they can make it stick.

Master of Kung-Fu #4, by Haden Blackman (writer), Dalibor Talijac (penciler), Goran Sudzuka (inker), Morislav Mrva (colorist), Travis Lanham (letterer) - You may have mastered 9 of the 10 rings, Shang Chi, but you're no match for Zheng Zhu's fabulous hair! If only you had learned the mysteries of Loreal Arts!

Shang tries to fight Rand-K'ai and Red Sai, which doesn't go terribly well, and we learn Shang killed Rand's master because Red Sai failed to, and he was trying to protect her and her school. Rand reluctantly lets Shang go to meet his father, and they have the big fight, in a room which resembles a miniature version of their city. So it's kind of like a kaiju fight, but with weird martial arts stuff. Shang nearly loses, but he's learned a few things in his time with the outcasts, which give him the upper hand. He becomes Emperor, everything is relatively happy.

When we get to the final battle, Shang is in his traditional look: shirtless, the red headband, the red pants. It's sort of a treat for the fans thing, but it actually works. Shang's shirt got torn over the course of his many battles, and the headband covers a wound given to him by Red Sai during the fight. So it isn't as though he just randomly decides this is a good look. If you're going to do that sort of thing, there should be a solid reason for it. I wasn't quite as clear on Rand suddenly deciding, "Naw, I can't beat Zheng, it has to be this guy I've been trying to hunt down for years."

I enjoy how, when Shang and Zheng begin to fight, Shang leaps over all those miniature buildings, but Zheng just charges through them, smashing them to bits. It isn't as though they're actually giants fighting in their real city, but it's probably telling in regards to how the two regard their roles in relation to the city. Zheng is one of those, "they're here to serve me" types, Shang is the, "I'm supposed to serve them" guy. I also liked the shift on page 19 from Talijac's normal style, to the flatter style he's been using for the retellings of lore that lead off each issue. Showing how this is becoming part of that legend, the exile returning to challenge his father and take over the realm.

I wish this had more time for the fights. Go full Dragonball with it, spend entire issues on one crazy fight. Lots of back and forth, arguing, weird techniques. For what it wanted to be, I think it was pretty good.

Mrs. Deadpool and the Howling Commandos #3, by Gerry Duggan (writer), Salva Espin (artist), Val Staples (colorist), Joe Sabino (letterer) - Monsters, please, the giant spectral Dracula is behind you! Simon Belmont would be rolling in his grave at your attempts to kill the Lord of Vampires.

Shiklah and the others reach Weirdworld, where the other half of the scepter is located. After much stumbling lost in the jungles, they find the proper temple, then have to fight off a slightly kooky wizard for the Totem of Manticore. Then they start on their way home. The only problem is, well, see, they left the Invisible Man to spy on Dracula, and he's not nearly as good at staying unnoticed as you'd expect. Dracula was getting pretty paranoid, swinging at the air, until he finally made contact with someone invisible. After that, he pretty much went nuts, and by the time our protagonists return, he's killed much of the population of Monster Metropolis.

Also, the only person who can see Ghost Deadpool is Frankenstein's Monster, who refuses to explain why he seems to be talking to air. Is that a metaphor for something? Frankenstein wants to keep Deadpool all to himself, even if it hurts Wade, even if it makes people think he's off his rocker, because it's something exclusive to him. Kind of like certain segments of the fandom, who want to keep other people out, then wonder why everyone else thinks they're nuts. And the readers are the only ones other than the Monster who can see Wade, so are we similar? Not a comforting thought, but I do share the Monster's fear of being lit on fire. Oh no, I was the monster all along!

It's not the strongest issue. I haven't felt like Duggan's given me a reason to want Shiklah to succeed in her mission. The whole quest hasn't resonated. Maybe because the last time we saw her in Deadpool, she was about to raise an small army of warriors and try to conquer the world. Dracula's no good, but I'm not entirely convinced she's too much better. I did enjoy Dracula getting so paranoid he essentially loses his mind. It's kind of funny, but it also made a certain amount of sense. He knows Shiklah isn't happy about the marriage, he knows he's a shitty boss, so he has to watch both those fronts. That means he starts questioning everything he thinks he knows about them and their actions, which gets him questioning more people. Which makes those people jumpy, 'cause they don't want to die, which makes him more suspicious, and so on. It's pretty well played.

I like Espin's art, but I wonder if it isn't too cute at times. The last panel, with Dracula holding ogre or troll by the hair, while it stares at us blankly, almost made me laugh. It isn't badly drawn, but the way the ogre's tongue lolls out of its mouth gave it a comic edge. It made me think of someone pretending to be dead, like a little kid or something. The panel where he ripped the minion's head off with his teeth was appropriately gory. And Dracula's expressions as he starts to lose it are pretty good. I can almost see his eye twitching when he finds out there's more than one invisible presence in his castle.

I am confused by the presence of the Thors at the end of issue 2. They didn't show up at all here, so I don't know what that's about, whether it'll be brought up next month or not. I don't know if I even want them to show up, other than there needs to be some payoff for it. My guess is, Shiklah and the Commandos kill Drac, the Thors decide this is too much of a disturbance, and she has to lead her kingdom in an open war against the Thors. Which could be a tall order. As Drac put it, God Doomit to Hell (I chuckled at that line).

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Zorro 1.29 - Quintana Makes A Choice

Plot: Bernardo rides into town alone early, to have a bridle repaired. The store is closed, so he sits to wait, and hears a noise around the corner. It's a bear, which sets Bernardo running for the cuartel, where he's let in by Corporal Reyes, who, upon seeing the bear, calls for Sergeant Garcia. Garcia decides he'd like a bearskin rug, and ventures out into the square with a couple of lancers. But none of their muskets will fire, so they swiftly retreat. Back inside the cuartel walls, Garcia and Reyes examine their rifles and discover their gunpowder is actually charcoal. Garcia discusses the matter later in the tavern with Diego, who suggests Garcia question the soldiers. Garcia does, but discovers nothing of use. Reyes suggests asking Raquel, since she's living inside the cuartel, and Garcia reluctantly does so, noting that nothing has left the cuartel that could hide gunpowder, except the boxes she had brought in then sent out again. Raquel grows indignant, and Garcia kind of lets the matter drop.

Raquel is now concerned he'll figure it out, and in discussing the matter with Quintana and Enrique, it is decided they'll kill the sergeant. That evening, Zorro sneaks back into the tavern's cellar, but fails to find the gunpowder. He also nearly topples the wine casks, which alerts Raquel to his presence, and she nearly captures him. Zorro is able to make her lower guard just enough she misses with her pistol by implying he works for the Eagle as well. Raquel also let slip the plan to kill Garcia, and Zorro has to dash off. In the wilderness, Quintana and Enrique have assured Garcia that if he keeps watch on the road, the gunpowder will be along. Meanwhile, they'll shoot him in the back. Zorro averts this, and when Enrique tries to flee, he catches an accidental(?) bullet from Quintana. Garcia through all this is insisting Zorro is nuts, and trying to capture the Fox. Which goes as well as you'd expect.

Quote of the Episode: Reyes - 'I think something must be wrong.' Garcia - 'This is always true. If something was not wrong, it would not seem right.'

Times Zorro marks a "Z": 0 (13 overall).

Other: We got one "baboso" this week, from Garcia to Reyes when the corporal didn't see how the useless information Garcia's questioning unearthed helped find the gunpowder.

Raquel tried to convince Zorro to join the Eagle with the "strong man" argument. You know, the people are sheep, they need a strong leader, that old line. Not all that different from the Magistrado's sales pitch when he wanted Alejandro and the other rancheros to form a vigilante group. She didn't have any more success selling it to Zorro, than Gallindo with Diego.

I'm unclear what choice Quintana made this week. That's why I put the question mark after "accidental". All I could figure was the choice was to shoot Enrique because he feared Zorro would capture him and make him talk. Except Zorro already knows Quintana is crooked, but I guess, since Garcia wasn't buying what Zorro was selling, Quintana figured he'd be safe from the authorities so long as Enrique didn't spill the beans. Except it really didn't seem like he meant to shoot Enrique. Although quite why he thought Zorro would run away from Enrique, after Enrique stole Zorro's gunpowder, I don't know. At any rate, I can't imagine he's going to last much longer, now that he's reached the point of villainy where he's eliminating his cohorts. The Magistrado did something similar in his last few weeks. I think once you've been established as so evil you kill the other people in your cause, the story can't allow you to hang around. We'll see if I'm right.

Initially, I was going to conclude this was another episode light on story, and padding it out with Garcia/Reyes hijinks. And I think that's somewhat true. The thing with the bear dragged on a bit long at the start. But in some ways, we get to see Garcia and Reyes being at least somewhat competent. They know there's something screwy about 3 muskets all failing to fire, so they investigate the weapons. They're experienced enough soldiers to recognize what is and isn't gunpowder, and if Reyes suggestion that gunpowder might turn to charcoal if left in a keg too long (he compares it to cider his family left too long, until it fermented into wine) is silly, well, these guys haven't been trained in chemistry, so far as I know. How would Reyes know whether that's possible or not? Garcia is willing to discuss it with a smart man he trusts - Diego - but he's already made a list of the people with access to the gunpowder (himself, Captain Toledano, Reyes, and the 4th man as he puts, the one who stole the powder).

Then he takes Diego's advice to question the soldiers, and if it doesn't produce useful info, he at least tries. He questions Raquel as delicately as he can, but he's at least smart enough to recognize the boxes she had brought in and sent out (allegedly to move some of her husband's things so she had room in her current lodgings). But at the end of the day, this is the wife of his commanding officer, so he has to tread lightly. And Raquel knows that, and uses it to blunt his questioning even more. I can't quite figure Garcia's unwillingness to believe Zorro's warning, though. Sure, Garcia is a trusting fellow, and Quintana and Enrique are claiming to be friendly, but Garcia knows Zorro is a good guy. And he also knows these two guys came into the cellar pistols drawn on Garcia and Reyes not too long ago. Surely he ought to be a little suspicious.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

His Ego Leaves No Room For A Crowd

So, A Face in the Crowd. Patricia Neal finds some bum (Andy Griffith), and somehow gets him on a local radio station, where he becomes a big hit by spinning folksy tales of a hometown partially constructed from his own experiences. An Ozark version of Garrison Keillor, I guess. He's such a big hit, he quickly gets an offer from a Memphis TV station, then leverages that into a spot on a national station, where he becomes a huge star. Rhodes lets it all go to his head, especially when he's called in to give a prospective Presidential candidate advice on how to better appeal to the voters. So naturally he is destroyed by his own arrogance, for a certain value of "destroyed."

I was mostly impressed by A Face in the Crowd, until right at the end. During Lonesome Rhodes' breakdown, Walter Matthau speaks directly to the audience - under the guise of speaking to Rhodes - and details exactly what will happen to the disgraced personality. Then he turns to leave, not before spooking Rhodes' lackey into hitting a button on a sound machine. So Matthau departs, walking away from us to an elevator, down a long aisle, to thunderous applause. The movie was too impressed with itself there.

Maybe it's the message isn't terribly surprising to me. You mean celebrities are not always wonderful people (Rhodes is apparently based on some guy named Albert Gottfried), that they can be as motivated by selfishness and greed as the rest of us? That we shouldn't look to them to determine how we feel about important issues? Old news by now, but I imagine that wasn't the case in 1957, when the public knew less about the prominent stars of the day. And it isn't as though there aren't plenty of people who don't continue to put too much stock in what celebrities say. Even so, it's reminiscent of Advise and Consent, in that it's more notable to me for how accurately it describes something which is commonplace these days.

I was never clear on what Patricia Neal's character saw in Rhodes, romantically. I missed the beginning of the film, so I'm not clear how she realized this drunk hayseed could be a marketable property, either, but that's not a big deal. But she is attracted to him, and hangs around for reasons beyond just money. When he asks her to marry him, she doesn't accept, but she clearly considers it. When she learns he was married all along, she's hurt. She knows he's garbage, but she won't leave. Maybe he's just that good a showman, he always knows how to rein in his impulses just enough to keep from alienating the people he needs, until he thinks he doesn't need them.

I think it's supposed to be she sees something good in him, and thinks she can bring it out, but there's no evidence of it. He can be charming, but charming isn't good. He's a drunk when I first saw him, he's a drunk later, and mean throughout. The only difference is that as he rises in prominence, he's more likely to punch down than up. Instead of encouraging kids listening to his show to visit the radio station owner's pool, or not letting advertisers bully him, he's berating the writers working for him and insulting his audience. But it boils down to the same thing: He thinks he's invincible, and he uses it as much to hurt others as to help his position.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Would You Give Thanks For A Bunch Of First Issues?

November sees a continuation of Marvel's rollout of a bunch of restarted series, most of which I'm still not terribly interested in. Deadpool being the exception, as I'm curious to see what Duggan and Hawthorne do with a Deadpool that is as popular with the people of his world as he is with certain portions of comic fans in our world. Assuming the solicit isn't a joke.

Let's see, there's Venom: Space Knight. Yeah, that's what people were clamoring for. Venom fans - the poor, deluded fools - will buy it regardless of the title, but I can't see many fans of Rom being excited with this book. I'm a little surprised Peter Quill's going to be in the Star-Lord title, but Kitty Pryde's using that name in Guardians of Galaxy. Actually, the idea of Kitty taking a previously established identity, and being leader of an odd collection of heroes (including the Thing) was intriguing to me, but it's a team book written by Bendis, and there's no way I'm falling in that trap. It feels weird, I guess I'm not used to the idea of Star-Lord being a codename held by multiple characters, ala Green Lantern, or Flash. I think Quill's book is set in the past, so maybe it's more similar to how Carol Danvers used to be Ms. Marvel, and now Kamala is, but Carol's book isn't using her old codename. I can't be surprised at Marvel trying to eat their cake and have it too.

Oh, there's the Hercules book where Marvel's apparently ignoring any suggestion Herc isn't strictly heterosexual, even though I guess it's not consistent with the mythology. And I know Incredible Hercules at least acknowledged that aspect of the mythology as being true of Marvel's Herc as well. Although in the myths, isn't his male lover a young man? That was a running theme while he was hanging out with Amadeus Cho I thought, people assuming Cho was in a similar relationship with Herc. Which I know wasn't uncommon in Ancient Greece, but would raise some issues now. It doesn't preclude Hercules from having romantic relationships with adult men, so good luck with that, Dan Abnett*. Ms. Marvel's got her new #1, and it's 5 bucks. Brilliant. I may be waiting until mid-December to actually buy any of these books, get some beat up copies for marked down prices. By that I mean Ms. Marvel and Deadpool, I'm not buying any of those other titles, the price just reinforces that decision.

Stepping away from Marvel, Harley Quinn & Power Girl wraps up, Atomic Robo continues, and Descender resumes after a 2-month hiatus. I have to hope things will start to move a little faster on that one. One-Punch Man Volume 3 is coming out as well, though I really want another Yotsuba volume. It's been at least two years. What the hell, Azuma? Cater to my whims!

ComicMix is releasing a GrimJack Omnibus. I'm not clear on whether this is a re-release of the ones IDW did years ago, or a new version. It's not a big deal for me, since I own all the GrimJack already, but I felt like mentioning it. If you don't own it all, you should buy it. I think DC is finally releasing that second collection of Ostrander's Suicide Squad they solicited a few years ago, The Nightshade Odyssey. I have to agree with Caleb Mozzocco, it would be nice for DC to actually have some good Suicide Squad comics collected, assuming the movie succeeds in drumming up interest (and hopefully John Ostrander and Luke McDonnell see some cash from that. And this has that crossover with Justice League International where Captain Boomerang fights the cheerful, childlike brain-damaged Guy Gardner (also there's a pretty serious fistfight between Batman and Rick Flag.) Again, I have those issues, but if you don't, you should get that trade when it comes out. Only if you want. No pressure.

* I read a conversation somewhere with Abnett where he said he and Andy Lanning were done collaborating. The way he phrased it made me think they had a falling out, which made me sad. I know they'd hardly be the first creative partners to fall out, but I enjoyed their work together, it seemed they were a good team. Hopefully they're still at least friends.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

It Has Nothing To Do With Housing Or Urban Development

Turner Classic was doing a Patricia Neal day, and we'll get to A Face in the Crowd sometime, but for now, let's take a look at Hud.  Neal is Alma, housekeeper and cook on the Bannon ranch for the 3 generations of Bannons: Homer (Melvyn Douglas), the patriarch, Lonnie (Brandon De Wilde), the teenager, and Hud, played by Paul Newman. Hud is Lonnie's uncle, and Homer's son, but not the favored son (that'd be Lonnie's deceased father).

I mentioned when I watched Harper that I had difficulty buying into a film that tries to make Paul Newman an abrasive, frequently unlikeable character. Hud isn't a good person by any stretch, but the film leverages Newman's charisma well. Hud is capable of being very charming, as any number of women in the town can attest. But he's almost entirely self-centered, to the point of complete indifference to anyone else's feelings. Every so often he shows some small kindness or kinship towards Lonnie, but it doesn't last.

There's a lot of ugly history between Hud and Homer, and it's an open question how responsible the father is for the son. Homer contends Hud has nothing good in him, and that he's known it for a long time. But if he's done nothing to hide his contempt for Hud for years, how much of Hud's behavior is a response to that? He could have tried to do whatever it took to get Homer's approval, but instead decided to openly conform to Homer's worst expectations. The choice was still Hud's, but I think Homer's a little quick to wash his hands of responsibility.

Lonnie's caught in the middle, between respect for his grandfather, and a mixture of sympathy and admiration for his cool uncle. He's trying to decide which kind of man he's going to be.

As for Alma, she's a calm center in the film for much of it. She banters with Hud, and doesn't allow him to fluster her. She handles Homer's gruffness with patience, and tries to care for Lonnie in her own way. She's much older than Lonnie, and certainly more mature than Hud, if not much older in years. At the same time, she's close enough to them that she gets them, and can talk to them in the way Homer just can't. He's too reserved, to set in his way of thinking to bend. As fractured as the Bannons are, it seems likely they're the best family she's been part of. She's had a rough go of it in the past, and this place offers a little stability. She has a small home of her own, and three people to look after, each who expresses their appreciation in their own way. Of course it all falls apart badly, and while it's clear why Alma would leave, you can tell it pains her. A good thing doesn't last, another in a series.

It may have been over the top, but I like how the film adds in a howling wind noise for shots of the ranch when things go badly. The main gist of the story is Homer bought some sick cows, and his determination to do the right thing ultimately sinks the ranch, at least as he conceives of it. I think they shot things in lower light conditions during the bad times, so everything is darker, like it's overcast. Put me in the mind of a grey winter day, even though there wasn't snow on the ground in any of the shots.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

31 Days of Scans - Day 24

Today is for Least Favorite Costume. Now, I want to emphasize that it's "least favorite", not "worst". There are countless costumes worse than the one I'm going to pick on here. The various female characters on the X-Men alone could fill a month of Sundays, depending on your sartorial preferences. Wonder Man had that god awful Christmas colored outfit for a stretch in West Coast Avengers (which would have bothered me more if Simon hadn't wound up in the role of "egotistical asshole" on the team, an impressive feat for a roster that had Tony Stark and Clint Barton). Then there were all the terrible "armored" outfits of the '90s: Captain America's, Daredevil's, that suit Ted Kord built for Booster, Azrael's Bat-suit I suppose (though there are certain artist who made that not look too bad to me).

But like I said, it's least favorite, and so I'm picking this, plainclothes, basic, whatever you want to call it look for Hawkeye. There's nothing distinctly awful about it. It's too simple for that. It's a t-shirt with a purple chevron on it and some sunglasses.

Which is the problem: It's dull. It would be a good outfit for someone trying to maintain a lower profile, but this is Clint Barton we're talking about. Low profile is not in his vocabulary. He's loud, he's boisterous, he's bragging and butting heads with people, demanding you notice him*. He was trained and spent a fair amount of his developmental years in a carnival, where the whole point is to draw attention, get eyeballs on you, butts in the seats.

Also, the old costumes are more practical, and sure, practicality is rarely my major concern with costumes, but I figure it's worth addressing. Clint is essentially a normal human. He doesn't have any enhanced resilience to injury, no healing factor or bulletproof skin. The older outfits offer protection from head injuries, though I suppose the sunglasses could be equipped to project a small repulsor field around his cranium. Clint's brash, but he isn't an idiot. A costume that has some sort of protection makes sense.

I will say I prefer the current outfit to the one from roughly Avengers #100, with the headband and the mini-skirt. That one's both ugly and impractical.

Clint demonstrates what I assume is proper bowman technique on a variant cover for Hawkeye #2 of the 2012 series, drawn and colored David Aja. The other two covers are from Clint's 2003 series. The first was penciled by Carlos Pacheco, inked by Jesus Merino, and colored by Frank D'Armata. The other was, well I'd swear that's Scott Kolins work, but the Grand Comics Database says Joe Bennett (who did do the interiors). If the GCD is right, Sandu Florea inked it, and Kickstart colored it. If it was Kolins, he inked it himself most likely.

* It might almost have made sense for that stint leading the Secret Avengers, except for the part where Venom and the Beast were both on the team, not to mention Captain Britain. Guy in a bright black-and-white living costume, big, blue furry guy, and a flying guy wearing a modified Union Jack does not exactly scream subtle. Oh yeah, and Valkyrie and her big, white flying horse.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Hunter Killer - William T. Y'Blood

I'm visiting my dad, which of course means more books. Hunter Killer is focused on the deployment of escort carriers (aka CVEs, aka "jeeps") in the Battle of the Atlantic against U-boats. For a time, there were those gaps in the center of the Atlantic, where no land-based attack planes could reach. The answer was the get planes out there on top of carriers. Little carriers, relatively speaking, but capable of carrying a dozen each of fighters and torpedo bombers. Combined with the 3-5 destroyers escorting the carrier, that would hopefully be enough.

There was, naturally, some disagreement between the British and the Americans about how to use them. The British tended to favor keeping the CVEs close to convoys, perhaps because their captains were so used to relying on precise orders from land they weren't worth shit at independently seeing out the enemy and destroying it (this lack of initiative and free handedness was something I've seen discussed with regards to generals of the British Army as well). The Americans, naturally, decided to go on the offensive, and send the CVEs to locations they had reason to believe (thanks to the decoded German transmissions) contained U-Boats. That was the Admirality's biggest beef, that by always having carriers waiting where the U-Boats were going to mass or refuel, the Americans would give away the fact the Nazi's Enigma machine wasn't working. It wound up being a false hope, as Doenitz apparently would raise the possibility, but always dismissed it.

Y'Blood proceeds more or less in chronological order, moving from ship to ship as one returns to port of refuel, and another heads out. The book doesn't go into a lot of technical detail, so it will mention that the Avenger torpedo bombers began to be equipped with sonobuoys to help track subs if they were able to dive, but he doesn't spend any time detailing the history of the device's development, or if there was any determination as to why so many of them didn't seem to work. Ditto with the homing torpedo, dubbed "Fido". Considering how lousy U.S. torpedoes were early in the war, the fact they have one for these details that isn't completely useless seemed worth exploring. You do get a general idea of the shift in strategy as the crews gain more experience hunting subs. The Fido gets added in, then rockets. The fighters and bombers get smarter about working together to sink a sub, then gradually the fighters are deemphasized, since there isn't much airborne threat to the CVEs.

The book is confined fairly strictly to the missions the ships were on, and mostly to the parts where the ships are actively engaged with a submarine. There isn't much time spent on biographies of any of the officers, pilots, or U-Boat captains, as you see in some history books. All of which combines to make the book feel a bit thin at 290 pages (not counting the notes and bibliography). The inclusion of maps outlining typical search patterns, or the actual movements of the involved vessels during actual battles was a good touch.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Another Trip To The Ballpark

Like last year, my dad and I went to the game honoring the St. Louis Cardinals' 2015 Hall of Fame inductees on Saturday. Unlike last year, when the Cardinals chose that game to be the one they lost out of the 4-game series with San Diego, the Cardinals saved their bad game for Sunday.

Traffic going into St. Louis wasn't too bad, which was nice, since we were running a bit behind. In the conflict between my desire to get places early, and my father's general inability to get anywhere on time, I guess I won this round.

The inductees this year were Curt Flood, Ted Simmons, Bob Forsch, and George Kissell, who was a scout and instructor for the Cardinals for over 60 years. Unfortunately, Simmons was the only one still alive, but it was good to see Flood get honored, since he got sort of run out of the league for challenging the reserve clause. Forsch is really the only one I remember, and even him only vaguely, but still, it was  nice.

As for the game, the Cards won. John Lackey pitched well, which continues to surprise me (I wasn't terribly impressed with his performance after he was traded to St. Louis last year). He did balk in a run, which I don't think I've ever seen in a game I attended, so something new. Otherwise he pitched into the 9th, so the best performance I've seen from a Cardinals' starter in a game I went to since Todd Stottlemyre against the Marlins in '98. OK, so there were only 3 games in between those two, comprising mediocre to awful starts by Juan Acevedo, Jeff Suppan, and Shelby Miller, but still. My dad and I were both surprised Matheny pulled Lackey after one guy reached base in the 9th. We figured with a 4-run lead, Matheny would give the veteran a longer leash. On the other hand, it gave him a chance to use Steve Cishek, and it seems rare anyone other than Rosenthal, Siegrist, or Maness gets to pitch in relief.

Randal Grichuk hit a home run, making my continued doubting of him look foolish, though I've never doubted his power, it's his plate discipline I question. Mark Reynolds hit a home run later on to help stretch the lead. The Cardinals did try to steal a base on two occasions, both ending in failure, though one of those might have been a failed hit and run. I appreciate the team trying to be more aggressive on the bases, if only because I think it makes for a more entertaining game, but they aren't very good at it. They don't have much speed outside of Jason Heyward, Kolten Wong, and Peter Bourjos, and the latter two don't seem to be very good at using it effectively. If they have tells, the league is wise to them.

Most of the fans around us were fine, though a couple of ladies behind us didn't show until the middle of the 3rd inning. Unfortunately, fans on the other side of the field tried to start the Wave in the 6th inning, then again in the 8th. It died a quick death the first time, but lasted long enough to actually obstruct my view once the second time. Otherwise, it was a good time. Got out of the stadium without too much trouble, ditto for getting out of St. Louis. My sleep's still a little off, though.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Zorro 1.28 - Zorro By Proxy

Plot: We open with Raquel Toledano paying a visit to Quintana in the tavern. She reveals that she is also an agent of the Eagle, and until further notice, Quintana and Enrique will take orders from her. It's then she learns that their gunpowder has gone missing (this episode apparently starts the morning after last week's), thanks to Zorro. Raquel remains calm, and dupes Garcia into leading the lancers into the hills to search for the gunpowder, where they almost stumble across Diego and Bernardo as they try to hide it. The search party is scattered, with only Garcia in the vicinity, so Diego sends Tornado out to draw the sergeant away, trusting in Garcia's belief that having Zorro's horse would enable him to catch Zorro.

Everything is going well, until a helpful Corporal Reyes snags Tornado, not that he recognizes what he's caught. He's too busy trying to figure out why Garcia's horse changed color, and why, once back at the cuartel, he's having to paint the horse. Garcia says he just wants it to look like it used, but it's going to be hard to convince anyone it's his old horse when it's bringing him buckets of water and scratching his back. It's about this time Diego comes by, and when Garcia isn't looking, gives Tornado hand signals which the horse naturally obeys. Unfortunately for Diego, Enrique was watching, for the Commandante's office where he and Raquel are going over all the reports of Zorro's activities. Which means it's time for someone to suspect Diego of being Zorro. Raquel is unconvinced, but when Diego comes by to check in, he asks if she left the office at any time after that message arrived, but before Diego returned with Sergeant Garcia. She claims she saw Reyes slip in, then back out again, but now she's concerned Diego's asking too many questions. She's still not convinced he's Zorro, but she's willing to try something to find out, and she ropes Garcia into it.

So the sergeant brings Diego to the tavern to treat Diego to a drink, which should have been the first warning, then Diego is lured into the back and clocked over the head by Quintana. Quintana throws on a Zorro outfit, runs out into the tavern, fights with Garcia for about 5 seconds, then retreats and puts the outfit on Diego, claiming, he saw Zorro run in here and was able to surprise him. Which is how an irate Diego winds up in a cell, yelling at Garcia for betraying him. The sergeant is apologetic, but insists Diego not worry, since the real Zorro will no doubt come to save Diego. Yeah, about that. . . That evening, as lancers patrol the rooftops and Garcia sleeps in front of Diego's cell, he motions Tornado over, and the horse is able to grab the keys off Garcia's chair and pass them to Diego. Then Diego makes a makeshift Zorro costume out of his bedding, and makes Garcia let him out of the cuartel. Before he can leave on Tornado, Reyes spots him, and a lancer is able to lasso Zorro off his horse. Which leads to a lot of scrambling around before Zorro escapes anyway, with everyone believing he already helped Diego escape.

Quote of the Episode: Diego - 'I've said aloud your honesty and integrity are above question, and the you proceed to betray me, and for what?!'

Times Zorro marks a "Z": 0 (13 overall).

Other: Bit of a filler episode this week, what with all the horse hijinks, and the increased Garcia/Reyes interaction. We already knew Raquel was no good, and this plot episode didn't really advance the overarching plot any. I doubt Diego realizes this was the work of the Eagle, no doubt believing it's just another harebrained scheme to capture Zorro.

I wonder if Raquel trying to cast suspicion on Corporal Reyes will backfire on her. Will Diego buy in, or does he know the corporal well enough to realize that guile isn't really in his arsenal? If it's the latter, will that cause him to watch Raquel more carefully? He's already had a run in with one female agent of the Eagle, he ought to be on the lookout for more.

I'm impressed this show keeps track of things its referenced as well as it does. I was expecting more of a situation where the characters are starting fresh each episode, like the Simpsons do sometimes, where big events are just forgotten by the next episode, and the status quo restored. But Garcia's belief that having a better horse is all that keeps Zorro from his grasp has been established previously, and it's used again here, to explain why the sergeant wouldn't call the lancers over once he saw Tornado.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

He Needs To Watch For Vengeful Cabbies

The Cheap Detective is a parody of a host of Bogart's '40s films, with Peter Falk in Bogart's role, as gumshoe Lou Peckinpah. It's mostly The Maltese Falcon, crossed with Casablanca, but there are elements of The Big Sleep and To Have and Have Not in there, too.

Peckinpah's partner is one of several people found dead in a hotel, and when it turns out Peckinpah was fooling around with his partner's wife (which we learn when she calls Lou to remind him of the fact as the police stand around her), Lou has to start investigating that. Then Madeline Khan shows up as a woman with something like 15 aliases, with some story about trying to find her missing sister. But really, she's after some rare eggs with diamonds inside. And so are two other fellows.

Then Peckinpah's old flame shows up with her French husband, who is on the run from some Nazis determined to not let him open a 2-star French restaurant in Oakland for French forced to flee their country. And it just goes from there. With any film like this, it's hit and miss. John Houseman does a pretty decent Sydney Greenstreet voice, but the suit they game him to be Greenstreet's size is a little too awkward looking. Deluise's Peter Lorre impression is fairly poor (my dad said he was portraying Lorre near the end of his life, rather than how he was in the films they're playing off). But Madeline Khan's always good, and there's an amusing scene when Marlene DuChard visits Falk, and he's trying to deal with a lot of other surprise guests.

Falk's a good center for it, though. He knows when to be surprised, to get noticeably exasperated, and when to be unruffled.  There has to be a delicate balance to that, because the sometimes the joke needs to be what the other character said or did, and sometimes it needs to be Falk's reaction. For the most part, I'd say he nails it. He can't really do the mean edge Bogart's characters could have, not believably anyway, so he mostly doesn't try. He's not mocking or snide towards Khan's array of names, or her attempts to play on his sympathy. He's more like a patient parent, letting the kid wear herself out. It gives her the chance to go over the top.

I think the movie could have been streamlined a bit, it feels like it starts to drag as the cast starts to bloat in the last quarter, but otherwise The Cheap Detective was a good movie.

Friday, August 14, 2015

What I Bought 8/4/2015 - Part 3

There are five comics coming out this week I plan to buy. They announced a mini-series this week for Deadpool and Cable, by Nicieza and Reilly Brown. It's going to be released digitally first, but I'm sure it'll be in print eventually! Woo! But while I wait for that, let's look at the end of his last series.

Deadpool #45/250, by Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggan (writers), Mike Hawthorne (artist), Scott Koblish (artist), Terry Pallot (inker for Hawthorne), Jordie Bellaire (colorist for Hawthorne), Val Staples (colorist for Koblish), Joe Sabino (letterer for everybody!) - I'm strongly debating with myself whether to list all the creators from the six 5-page stories in the middle of this comic. I wasn't planning to discuss those anyway, they're fluff, but I may throw them in at the end of the review.

There are essentially two stories in this issue I am going to discuss. The first one, the one drawn by Hawthorne, follows the current storyline. Wade is returning from that Roxxon job that didn't go well, but not feeling too bad about himself, when ULTIMATUM attacks all his friends. Fortunately, between Wade's paranoia, Preston's SHIELD training, and having a necromancer and the ghost of Ben Franklin living with you, the terrorists' attempt to kill anyone fail miserably. Adsit did get gut-shot, but survived it. Wade plays against type, and sets about a careful plan, rather than pulling a Wolverine and just blinding charging towards the nearest idiot in a white jumpsuit and beret. He eventually lures everything ULTIMATUM has to a deserted, ruined farm in Kansas (which he purchased from its previous owner), and proceeds to kill everyone. He even keeps to his promise that he would kill Flag-Smasher last, even if this is a different one. Then he dumps his costume and weapons, and decides he and his friends will live out their lives on a yacht he stole (I guess he spent the last of his cash buying the farm and paying the guy who hacked the drones for him). This is interrupted by that other Earth crashing into 616-Earth and killing everyone, but, at least Wade didn't die lonely.

It's kind of an odd ending, even allowing for the necessary accommodation of Secret Wars ruining everything. Wade tried to show mercy previously, let ULTIMATUM go on about its business, so long as it do so well away from him. That ends up not being the correct course, so he kills everyone. Which is interesting in light of his decision to show mercy to Omega Red last issue, but it is consist with a theme of this run. Wade has generally been more merciful towards people he sees as victims, like himself. Omega Red, Butler's sister, that kid he saved during his fight with that demon. It predates this series, but there's his interactions with Evan (the kid that's supposed to become Apocalypse, and is understandably worried about that). With people he regards as having made their own poor decisions, he's considerably less forgiving. He killed Michael and sent him to Hell with no difficulties whatsoever, because heck, Michael sold his soul to a demon knowing what it meant. He was already going to Hell, might as well do something useful. Butler made his choices, Crossbones made his when he went after Wade, ditto former Agent Gorman who stiffed Wade on his "Re-kill undead Presidents" pay. ULTIMATUM would certainly fall in that latter category. Nobody made them become stupidly dressed terrorists, and certainly nobody made them reject Wade's generosity, so they die. What that means in a larger sense, I'm not sure. Give people a second chance, but only one? Some people don't know when to quit, and for them the only option is a bullet to the head?

It was kind of tragic watching Wade get a happy ending of sorts, only for it to be ruined by the end of the world. On the other hand, whenever things go well for Deadpool, he inevitably screws it up. I don't know if it's some subconscious defense mechanism, or just because he's crazy, but that's how it goes. He gets his life in a good place (usually near the end of a series), and by the start of the next one, he's lost everything somehow (see the change in his circumstances between Cable/Deadpool #50, and the first issue of Daniel Way's run). This time, he didn't have the chance, because the Avengers fouled everything up. Which makes the finale oddly touching. Everyone is dying, but Wade is happy, because they're together, and he didn't mess up. Hooray!

Hawthorne did a good job on the big battle. The initial shot from a distance, letting us see the big open space everything will be happening, but also giving us an idea of the forces aligned against Deadpool. Then the zoom in to Wade, leaning nonchalantly on the car, discussing his thought process on all this. Then he pulls back again as the drones start their attack, and it's all explosions and carnage, Wade hardly even present in the panels for the next couple of pages. Then once he gets more directly involved, on a given pages, Wade pretty much occupies the same place on the page as you move down. It conveys the sense they're all converging on him from every direction, and half the time, he's killing someone without even looking at them. He's looking at the next guy he's going to kill, because it isn't some revenge thing at this stage. He's just taking out garbage, essentially. It fits nicely with the mostly detached internal narration Posehn and Duggan give him (though he is at least a little pissed when he kills Flag-Smasher, but he doesn't know this isn't the same guy he magnanimously allowed to live back during Original Sin.).

The other story, the one drawn by Koblish, is another of the "lost issues", this one purportedly an Infinity Gauntlet tie-in Marvel of the '90s refused to publish because it made no sense. Wade steals the Cosmic Cube for Thanos (waiting to pick Wade up in the Thanos-Copter), except Wade saw the future when he grabbed the Cube, and uses it to pull a switcheroo on Thanos and steal the Gauntlet. Then he uses that so he can force everyone to show up for a roast of him. Which is about as unfunny as most of the roasts I've watched on TV. Howard's crack about taking a beating like the Hulk on an airline toilet wasn't bad, and Koblish drew Wolverine (making a special appearance from Hell) in Maddy Pryor's outfit from Inferno. That wacky Mephisto! I don't know if the low hit rate on the jokes was intentional or not, because at the end Wade tells the audience (meaning us) how much it sucks that his life, which is largely an endless stream of misery, is just entertainment to us.

Which kind of plays into my point about Wade always screwing up whatever good things he manages to put together. That's just me rationalizing the resetting of the status quo as we switch creative teams, but for the character himself, it's a string of misfortune being heaped upon him. He gains love and respect, then somehow loses it and winds up reviled again, so he can start all over, while people say he's just about dumb jokes and breaking the 4th wall. If that was my life, I'd find it pretty maddening. So that was interesting, even if the Howard the Duck appearance felt kind of useless. I sort of get Howard when Gerber writes him, but other than that, he doesn't do much for me. Maybe because I already have Deadpool to commentate on the absurdity of the world he exists in, and myself to commentate on the absurdity of the world I live in.

Beyond putting Logan in an entirely inappropriate outfit, Koblish draws the story well.There isn't much to do, admittedly, everyone is standing or sitting and either laughing hysterically or looking severely disgruntled. He made that kiss between Shiklah and Wade pretty hot, though. He used Reed Richards' stretching arms as panel borders on one page, that was a smooth maneuver. I assume the two guys standing in the shadows as Wade resets everything at the end were Posehn and Duggan. They're only in outline, but one's wearing a probably stupid hat, and the shape of the other's head -and his height - suggests Zippy the Pinhead, and I have no idea what either of those guys look like, so who knows.

So that's it for this volume of Deadpool. It's probably about the best send-off he could get, under the circumstances. He's supposed to get a new series sometime before the end of the year, from Duggan and Hawthorne I think, and I'm curious to see where they go with it. Will wade's happy family have returned along with him? If so, is he going to be struggling with his desire to take extreme steps to protect them? That would be a fairly Deadpool thing to do, try to do the right thing, but take it too far.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Descendants

I'm not sure why I felt like watching The Descendants. A film about a husband finding out his comatose wife (who is about to be taken off life support) was cheating on him, is not normally the sort of thing I'd use to pass the time. I suppose I was curious to see what direction the film would go with that. What would George Clooney's character do when he finally meets the guy.

I'm pretty sure that was missing the point. I think it's supposed to be about everything that happens as he searches. The need to go and inform other loved ones that Elizabeth's going to die soon. He ends up spending a lot of time with his two daughters while he searches for the guy (the older one, played by Shailene Woodley, is actually who told him about the affair), which is naturally important. There's a whole subplot about some land on one of the islands (the film takes place in Hawaii) that he and a lot of other people own through a trust, and they're preparing to sell it, and Clooney's character has final say. So he's trying to decide what to do there (though I think that was kind of telegraphed partway through).

That stuff was all there, but I noticed most of it with a detached feeling. I really was just watching for the confrontation between Clooney and Elizabeth's lover. So once you factored in commercial breaks, I got pretty frustrated waiting for that to happen. It's like yes, Clooney is gradually realizing the challenges ahead of him as a single father. Yes, he's gradually acknowledging he took Elizabeth for granted (there's a scene where he visits her in the hospital after he learns the truth, and hisses at her that in a marriage each person is supposed to make life easier for their partner, the implication being she didn't do that, and I wondered how much easier he made her life. It takes a bit longer for that thought to occur to him).

I just wasn't that interested in any of it. I wanted the destination, not the journey. I guess because I'm curious how different creators will resolve particular conflicts. When using the "married person confronts their partner's lover", do they opt for anger, comedy, forgiveness? How does the philanderer react when confronted with their actions? There are certain stories that are pretty timeworn, but you can still get a lot of mileage out of them because there are so many different directions to approach it from. In this case, it starts out looking as though it'll be anger, and then it shifts to trying to do the right thing. Clooney trying to be the bigger man, or do one last good thing for his wife, one or the other.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

31 Days of Scans - Day 23

Favorite Costume. There are a lot of different costumes I like. Spoiler's outfit, Storm's sort of punk leather jacket with the Mohawk look, at least a few of the Iron Man armors (although those depend on who is drawing it), the Scarlet Spider outfit, the Batman Beyond costume.

But for the purposes of this post, I'm going to pick the black-and-white Spider-Man outfit. I probably still like his classic red-and-blue duds more, but I talked about them when I did the Favorite Character post on Spidey. Besides, the symbiont costume was a heck of a lot easier for a little kid enamored with Spider-Man to draw.

The look's a little more limited than his original costume. It lends itself to stories where Spider-Man can lurk in shadows, the eyes and spider emblem shining out of them. You can do similar things with his original costume - Spidey's no stranger to surprising people from the rafters in that get-up - but the black-and white costume rarely seems to get used in more light-hearted or silly stories. It can be - like the one where Peter's landlord's husband spikes the punch at Pete and MJ's moving out party, and Spidey ends up fighting Hobgoblin while drunk - but it's not the norm. It feels like the black costume gets a lot of stories where Peter has to deal with a serious loss or psychological trauma (though he has his fair share in the classic costume, too), but the red-and-blue duds get the stories where it's mostly just Spidey having a less-than-stellar day. The ones where he's more the butt of the universe's joke than anything else.

So the black-and-white outfit is mostly associated with dark, frequently angry Spider-Man stories, and I'm hardly a huge fan of those. But in small doses - and most critically, done well - they can be good. And frankly, I like to see Spider-Man get fed up and stop fooling around with bad guys every so often. I like the jokes, I like the humor, the focus on protecting innocents first, but every once in awhile I just want Spider-Man to wreck a super-villain's face. So when the costume is shorthand for "Spidey's about to remind everyone how he's survived this long", I'm on board with that.

Besides, it's a really cool look. It's very simple, but it works at grabbing attention. It plays up the "spider" in "Spider-Man" a bit more. Despite the lack of web design, it makes him look more spooky, more alien. Big white eyes, framed by darkness, staring from out of shadows, like they're just hovering. The spider emblem much bigger, front and center, you can't miss it. It's playing up that fear some people have of spiders, lurking in the shadows, making traps, watching with their multiple eyes. The original costume is certainly odd in its own way, and if someone dropped down on me in the middle of a mugging wearing it, I'd probably be a little freaked out. But I'd know that was a person in there, just from the all the colors and the look of it. The black-and-white one, I'm not so sure, especially talking about something moving as fast as Spider-Man can. What would that even look like to the naked eye? A dark blur, leaping around, tossing full-grown humans like they're rag dolls, shooting webbing. Spidey's constant chatter would break the illusion a bit, but like I said, in a lot of stories where he wears that suit, he's not very talkative.

And, as demonstrated in the above picture of Eddie Brock, and the one before that of Kraven, just about anybody can look good in it. There were a lot of things I didn't like about Venom, but the look of him wasn't it. Mayday had her own variant for awhile, which wasn't too shabby (although Ron Frenz had altered his art style and not for the better, which hurt it a bit).

Spider-Man enjoys the miracle of a suit that heals you without asking for you to provide proof of insurance first in Ultimate Spider-Man #35, by Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Mark Bagley (penciler), Art Thibert (inker), Transparency Digital (colorist), and Chris Eliopoulos (letterer). Spider-Man shows he's no drunken master in Web of Spider-Man #38, by Fabian Nicieza (writer), Alex Saviuk (penciler), Keith Williams and Mike Espositio (inkers), Janet Jackson (colorist), Rick Parker (letterer). The Kingpin really needs a better plan than, "fistfight pissed-off Spider-Man" in Amazing Spider-Man #542, by J. Michael Straczynski (writer), Ron Garney (penciler), Bill Reinhold (inker), Matt Milla (colorist), and Cory Petit (letterer). Kraven experiences that awkward moment when he meets the person he's cosplaying as in Web of Spider-Man #32, by J.M. DeMatteis (writer), Mike Zeck (penciler and colorist?), Bob McLeod (inker), Ian Tetrault (colorist), and Rick Parker (letterer). Eddie Brock rocks that symbiont jacket like a boss in Amazing Spider-Man #375, by David Micheline (writer), Bagley (penciler), Randy Emberlin (inker), Bob Sharen (colorist), Richard Starking and Rick Parker (letterers).

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Lion in Winter

I stumbled across The Lion in Winter on Turner Classic last week. My dad's often spoken of the movie, and seemed to feel we've watched it together at some point. I usually just nodded, because I was confusing it with The Wind and the Lion, with Candice Bergen and Sean Connery, which we did watch. Suffice to say, if we have watched the former, I've forgotten it.

I came in a bit late, but basically Henry II's (Peter O'Toole) 3 remaining sons, Richard, Geoffry, and John want him to get off the pot and pick an heir. And Henry won't do it. He keeps leading everyone around in circles, acting as though he'll marry off his mistress to Philip II (Timothy Dalton), then letting his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine (Katherine Hepburn) think she can talk him into choosing Richard if she gives up her lands to Henry. But no, he's going to pick John. Or maybe not! Throughout the whole thing, Henry is so damn smug about how clever he's being, when all he really seems to be accomplishing is pissing everyone off. After the wedding thing falls apart, and everyone save Eleanor has stormed out, Henry leans against the steps leading to the altar, and O'Toole does a quite convincing job of portraying a man completely satisfied with himself, that he's the puppet master.

Of course, the end result of all this is I spent the entirety of the movie waiting for someone to kill the ass. Stab him, shoot him with an arrow, roll a cask of wine on him, crack his skull with one of those candelabras, whatever. This never happened, though his sons all did start courting Philip's support behind Henry's back. I did enjoy that scene, the princes all hiding behind tapestries when Henry comes strutting in, and starts trying to outmaneuver Philip. And just as he's busy crowing about how effectively he's learned all of Philip's plans, BAM!, here are all his sons, plotting against him. Even though I assume Philip is supposed to be the bad guy here, it was hard not to laugh at Henry. Especially when he starts in with not having any sons any longer (I thought he was going to have a heart attack during all that), then runs to Eleanor and she basically laughs in his face, reminding him how many other sons he's scattered all over the countryside. What's three more bastards? Also, probably not a good idea to go for sympathy to the lady you've largely cast aside for a younger woman.

Those two were a weird pair. They seem to care for each other, but they can't stop deliberately hurting each other. There's no trust on either side, so every move is regarded with suspicion. Of course, every seemingly gracious gesture is actually designed to get some concession from the recipient, so the lack of trust is apparently justified, but it's sad. That's good acting by Hepburn and O'Toole, I guess, to sell something so tangled up and messy (and melodramatic, very melodramatic).

One thing I must have missed was why Henry didn't like Geoffrey. When Philip tells Henry about Richard's seduction of Philip (which Philip claims he played along with to be able to use as a weapon against Henry someday), well there seemingly goes Richard's chance of getting the throne (and good work by Anthony Hopkins in that scene as Richard, because I couldn't tell whether he was hurt that Philip was telling this secret, or that he never had feelings for Richard at all). So Henry says fine, John gets the throne (which is a poor choice, even ignoring his portrayal in Robin Hood stories, John here seems like he's barely smarter than a waffle), but John was conspiring with Philip first. Geoffrey seems ecstatic, 'cause that just leaves him (even though he was right there with John), and Henry says no. Never Geoffrey, and it has the feeling of something that's been between them for a long time, but I'm not clear on what. Was Geoffrey too much of a schemer, too obvious in his ambition for the throne? Is he not Henry's son?

The Lion in Winter is kind of a slanted title. It conveys a nobility to Henry that his actions here don't demonstrate he merits. Like, it's only once he's older and weaker that his enemies dare challenge him, which kind of frames them all as scavengers and jackals. But he really comes off as more of a bully. He had the whip hand, and he was more than willing to use it. Abuse his power sleep around, blame his wife for not just accepting it and letting him have whatever he wants. The contrast between how he and Philip see Philip's dad was telling. Henry had the upper hand, so Philip's dad's acceptance of that is seen as a good thing, whereas Philip sees it as weakness, which drives at least some of his aggressiveness towards Henry. He wants to redress what he sees as an old wrong, not repeat the failures of his father.

The film basically confirms my opinion that royal families are train wrecks, and monarchies are a thing to be avoided.